Maltreatment-Related Emergency Department Visits Among Children 0 to 3 Years Old in the United States

Child Maltreat. 2015 Aug;20(3):151-61. doi: 10.1177/1077559514567176. Epub 2015 Jan 27.


The emergency department (ED) is a vital entry point in the health care system for children who experience maltreatment. This study fills a gap in the maltreatment literature by presenting systematic, national estimates of maltreatment-related ED visits in the United States by children ≤3 years old, from 2006 to 2011, using the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS). Children who experienced and likely experienced maltreatment were identified via International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification diagnostic codes. Maltreatment was classified as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or poly-victimization. The clinical and demographic profiles of children who experienced maltreatment were described. Approximately 10,095 children who experienced maltreatment (0.1% of total ED visits) and 129,807 children who likely experienced maltreatment (1.2% of total ED visits) were documented each year. Maltreatment was associated with significantly greater risk of injury, hospitalization, and death in the ED setting. Physical abuse was the most common explicit maltreatment diagnosis (33 ED visits per 100,000 children ≤3 years old) and neglect was the most common likely maltreatment diagnosis (436 ED visits per 100,000 children ≤3 years old). This study established the NEDS as a valuable complement to existing surveillance efforts of child maltreatment from a public health perspective.

Keywords: Public Health; child maltreatment; database review; epidemiology; services utilization (not mental health).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child Abuse / classification
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Office Visits / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Trauma Severity Indices
  • United States / epidemiology